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Studios help thwart DVD piracy ring

The Motion Picture Association works with Malaysian officials to raid Web site operators suspected of selling pirated DVDs, leading to nine arrests and a mammoth haul of discs.

The Motion Picture Association and the Malaysian government raided operators of five Web sites suspected of selling illegal DVDs, in the film industry's latest attack on Internet piracy.

The international trade group worked with Malaysia's Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (MDTCA) to organize raids that led to the arrests of nine people, according to the MPA. The people arrested allegedly ran an illegal Web mail-order ring for pirated movies. One targeted site, DVDExpress2u, sold new-release DVD films such as "Confidence" or "2 Fast 2 Furious" for about $12.

In connection with the arrests--made in Penang, Malaysia, on Monday--the MPA said it seized more than 30,000 optical discs, which were largely pirated copies of DVDs from member Hollywood film studios. That was the largest collection of illegal material confiscated by the group, said Ken Jacobsen, senior vice president and director of worldwide antipiracy for the MPA, who described it as a sign of a mounting problem.

"We're finding huge amounts of pirated products sold online and shipped into the United States, Western Europe" and other countries, Jacobsen said. "It is a growing phenomenon, and we're working hard to shut down these people."

Many counterfeit DVDs and video computer discs (VCDs) are made by just a handful of operations in Malaysia, and--more recently--Russia, Jacobsen said.

Several years ago, pirated movies and software were often sold on the streets or in shopping malls in Asia, but police crackdowns drove the business underground. Asia has been under constant scrutiny by intellectual property rights watchdogs such as the MPA, which consider the area a breeding ground for pirated material. Last year, the region accounted for 87 percent of the 7 million pirated DVDs that were seized worldwide, according to the MPA.

However, some governments in the region have stepped up efforts to combat the problem, as part of a bid to boost trade ties with Western countries. In January, Singapore agreed to enforce copyright protection as part of a free-trade pact with the U.S.

The U.S.-based MPA's antipiracy operations are primarily focused on the "digital world," Jacobsen said. The group uses a proprietary search engine, called Ranger, to scout out Web sites that are selling unauthorized copies of films of their member companies, he said.

The four other Web sites connected to the Malaysian crackdown were,, and The sites' operators were suspected of distributing pirate DVDs to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Holland and the United States.

"Our antipiracy efforts are heavily directed toward digital piracy of optical discs and Internet (sales)," said Jacobsen. "We've seen a terrific convergence between the two...that creates a worldwide flea market of pirated (DVDs)."